The scale and scope of COVID19 have caused changes that were unimaginable only months ago. Entire global systems have shifted.
But even as organizations, governments and businesses have responded, there is another threat: the threat that the needs of excluded populations will be disregarded once again and the gains we have made in fostering an equitable world will be unraveled.
We stand with partners and our clients - the women and men who run businesses around the world. We are committed to maintaining our market-based approach to creating inclusive economic opportunities with the firm belief that this will create lasting and sustainable change. That is why we are reinforcing our commitment to 10 key principles to keep us on track:
1. We remain committed to keeping women, and excluded and vulnerable clients at the center of everything we do.
COVID-19 presents a direct threat to gender equality around the world. MEDA believes it is crucial that the rights of women, girls and other socially and economically marginalized populations remain a priority in pandemic recovery efforts. Canada’s Minister of International Development Karina Gould has indicated the need to “stay the course” on gender equality international efforts. Upholding the feminist and rights-based approach embodied by Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) remains paramount at this challenging juncture in history.
MEDA affirms the Government of Canada’s commitment to keeping the needs of women at the forefront of development efforts in the wake of the pandemic. We will do everything we can to further this mandate.
2. We remain committed to understanding and responding to COVID-19 through an intersectional gendered lens.
Truly equitable and economically-just recovery efforts from COVID-19 are achieved by applying an intersectional lens to foreign policy and aid. The impacts of the virus are felt very differently by individuals according to their gender and socio-economic status. Gender and other intersecting identity factors such as race and age also make a significant impact in terms of how women and people of color are affected.
MEDA’s programming and decision-making is driven by data, and we continue to prioritize intersectional analysis of gender, age and other demographic data points within the populations our programming serves to respond to the immediate and unique needs of marginalized women and girls, and men and boys.
3. We remain committed to protecting the gains that we have made on economic inclusion.
COVID-19 has the power to roll back actions on inclusive economic development. Women and other minorities most commonly face discrimination and exclusion within the formal economy. We cannot permit this to happen under the mounting pressures of a global pandemic. As companies weather an economic downturn, attention to measures that ensure decent working conditions may become less of a priority as industries struggle to remain profitable. Globally, women and others who are more vulnerable in this crisis are also concentrated in the bottom tier of global supply chains. This “sticky floor” effect coupled with gendered labour market patterns means that the vast majority of those most at risk, front-line and other essential workers, are women and minorities.
In the context of COVID-19, MEDA ensures that those with less access to resources and opportunities in global markets are supported during this crisis through our continued, gender-focused programming and engagement. We are listening and we are here to support.
4. We remain committed to finding private sector solutions that are gender-aware and sustainable.
There is a vital role for the private sector to play in buffeting the impacts of COVID-19 and contributing to the socio-economic resilience of local markets. As populations are locked down and experience economic stagnation, local companies remain key to ensuring employment and supply of essential goods, particularly in situations where the public sector is unable to respond. The private sector has the capacity to assist in recovery efforts - reaching those most at risk while utilizing a gender-aware approach.
We know that building resilient local markets creates sustainable, inclusive solutions and that companies owned and operated by women and other minorities are key actors in this process. We will look for opportunities to provide financial and other supports to ensure that our clients can continue to operate.
We know that women and other marginalized MSME owners understand local needs and with the right amount of support to decrease systemic barriers, they can build back better. We are committed to supporting the integration of these groups into inclusive market systems to help economies recover and foster thriving communities.
5. We remain committed to shedding a light on those perceived to be invisible.
Now more than ever, it is clear that women are the “glue” that holds economies and households together in crisis. Women are putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus while taking on more of the unpaid responsibilities with a greater burden of childcare including homeschooling, caring for the elderly and the sick, and many other “invisible” tasks that are vastly underrecognized in the context of the pandemic. It is crucial that during this time we remain vigilant to prevent the rolling back of systems and supports that aid women and other minorities to effectively engage in the formal economy. We must be aware of the other negative impacts of the crisis that are occurring during this time of social isolation and distancing, including an increase in gender-based violence. These issues have extremely negative repercussions on the wellbeing of women, their families, and the productivity of our economies.
As MEDA calls on the private sector to continue to promote fair wages and decent work for women and traditionally economically excluded populations, it is more important than ever that we recognize, valorize and support care work.
MEDA remains cognizant of these increased pressures and is committed to ensuring our work with the private sector can secure more equitable and accessible working environments for our clients.
6. We remain committed to leveraging the knowledge and expertise of our local partners and staff.
MEDA currently works with over 400 partners around the world in private, public and civil-society sectors. Based on collaborative analysis, we develop solutions that leverage local knowledge, resources, capacity and socio-cultural awareness to overcome challenges and ensure models can be replicated and scaled. We commit to leveraging the knowledge and expertise of local partners and staff to respond effectively to the new economic and social challenges arising from COVID-19, while providing advisory and financial support.
One example of the critical importance of local experience is the leadership that Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana have demonstrated in their expertise with contact tracing following Ebola.
MEDA understands and appreciates the leadership is not always coming from the Global North and commits to promoting and sharing knowledge and expertise from the Global South.
7. We remain committed to seeking opportunities to collaborate.
Now, more than ever, it is important for humanitarian, development and private sector actors to collaborate for the benefit of our clients. Actors can sometimes work in silos, duplicating efforts and not sharing information which could benefit others. This can lead to costly inefficiencies in global efforts such as recovering from a crisis, eradicating poverty, and mitigating the negative impacts of climate change.
To combat this, MEDA is committed to sharing knowledge and experiences while looking for opportunities to collaborate on initiatives and projects that will support those impacted by COVID-19.
8. We are committed to showing solidarity with our clients and partners.
One of MEDA’s core values is to treat all people with the dignity and respect they deserve. We do this to amplify client voices, experiences, and personal stories of solidarity. Some of the ways we are acting on this commitment in a COVID-19 world is through our newsletters and “good news” updates from our staff, clients, and partners in the field.
MEDA is also analyzing how our project activities and budgets can be realigned to meet our clients’ greatest needs.
9. We remain committed to keeping our staff safe, no matter where they live.
The health and safety of our staff and partners is our top priority. Since January, MEDA has been proactive in monitoring and responding to the global risks associated with COVID-19. To ensure our staff and client’s safety we have recalled all our international interns and all staff around the world are working from home. The security team consistently monitors the evolving risks and educates staff on how to prevent and minimize transmission. In light of this, all international and domestic travel has been suspended and large meetings and conferences have been postponed, cancelled or moved to a virtual format.
10. We remain committed to raising awareness and educating ourselves and others.
Finally, MEDA is committed to raising awareness and educating ourselves and others about the gendered and intersectional health and economic impacts of COVID-19. We are sharing learning from our staff and clients through blogs and social media updates on the impacts that we are observing and responding to in our project areas. For example, this blog from our Ukraine Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP) looks at the impacts of COVID-19 on our farmer and small business clients in Ukraine. Businesses supported by our Jordan Valley Links project are redirecting their manufacturing processes to create face masks and other personal protective equipment.